The only thing hustling more than Gray Attempt at the start of his gate-to-wire score in the Smarty Jones Stakes was his jockey Shaun Bridgmohan running to catch a plane to ride Saturday at Gulfstream Park.
Bridgmohan expertly guided Gray Attempt to the front and the rail in the one-mile Smarty Jones on Friday at Oaklawn Park, and the Graydar colt had enough in reserve to hold off Springboard Mile winner Hot Range Toddy up the rail of Oaklawn’s short stretch for one-mile races.
“He was just coasting under me,” Bridgmohan said of his trip aboard Gray Attempt with quarter-mile times of :23.12, :46.86, and 1:11.01 before a final time of 1:36.94. “Once we made the lead and got position I was super confident.”
Staying behind in a more relaxed manner after the win was owner Dwight Pruett and trainer William “Jinks” Fires, who is battling the flu.
“If this doesn’t cure him, then nothing will,” Pruett said of his trainer.
Gray Attempt lost his debut at Churchill Downs after pressing the pace but has won his next three starts all on the lead. This was his first try beyond 6 1/2 furlongs, however.
“We thought he had the talent to go at least a mile,” Fires said. “If he left like he thought he could and get position I knew he’d be tough. We just didn’t know what (trainer) Steve (Asmussen) would do since he had three in there. Once we were left alone I was confident.”
In addition to Long Range Toddy, Asmussen also saddled third-place finisher Boldor and beaten 3-2 favorite Bankit. Jockey Ricardo Santana Jr. told the Hall of Fame conditioner that Bankit had “nothing” when called upon for more run.
Fires picked Gray Attempt out at the 2017 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling sale for $50,000. Pruett said that Fires picks all his horses out, and while they have five other foals from 2016, “it was pretty clear this summer that this one (Gray Attempt) was our best. The cream rose to the top.”
Pruett won the 2016 Smarty Jones with Discreetness, but the Texarkana resident is more confident about this year’s winner from a Kentucky Derby (G1) perspective.
“That was very exciting (in 2016), but this horse has a better mind,” Pruett said. “He has no bad habits. He does what we ask him, and we don’t see speed as a bad habit.”
Gray Attempt has won three of four starts and has earned $184,700. Fires said that they would point toward the Southwest Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on February 18 at Oaklawn. Both this race and the Southwest are Road to the Kentucky Derby points contests and worth 10-4-2-1 points to the respective top four finishers.